Prior to becoming a school counselor, I worked in admissions for two local colleges. I enjoyed traveling all over the state of NY and not only visiting high schools, but also doing college fairs in the most unusual places: from ice rinks to malls! I got to see the best of NY that otherwise I would never had been able to see!
In meeting with teenagers, I found myself describing the programs the college offered, but not as a sales person trying to get them to apply to the college. I was more interested in learning about the student's interests, what made them think creatively and guiding them to the right colleges that were surrounding my table. You wonder why I ended up coming to the other side! It was about the right fit! If it happened to be the college I represented great, if not, why would I force the issue?
I have lived by this philosophy as a school counselor in doing the Junior Conferences. It is about the right fit and differentiation! How do you find the right fit for so many teenagers on a caseload without being robotic in the process? Stop, think, and organize yourself as a school counselor.
* It is about getting to know the student without having to have the transcript as the leading topic of conversation.
- Have you seen the student in an athletic event at school?
- Did you see the theater or musical production the student was involved in?
- While walking down the hall, did you run into the student collaborating with friends in the library, cafeteria or just engaged in something different?
- Did any of the classrooms or bulletin boards have work done by the student?
- The student shares they do crafts, did you ask to see some of their work? Same with photo, painting, written pieces, etc?
* It is about knowing the culture of college campus and thinking about the student on your caseload that might be match the college.
* It is not about the bumper sticker on the car or a report from tools that makes us look good as school counselors. I understand that stakeholders believe in the rankings and placement. Throught the needs of the district stakeholders and the students, remember to remind yourself: It is the about the right fit and the Whole Child approach!
Let's start. Think of the benefits of the term right fit from a data perspective and a department discussion. As a Director of K12 School Counseling, my first data point is to look at the number of students who return after they graduate and ask to transfer. That should be a red flag if numbers are high and there are no reasons behind it. I am sensitive to those who transfer because of economic issues. I don't count them. Once you have your data, then bring it forth to the department to begin a discussion of reviewing the college process.
Another source of data is the National Student Alumni Clearinghouse. There is a fee involved but the results can open your eyes as to where are your alumni graduating from if they are graduating at all! I had the report run since the class of 2003 to present. What we found was astonishing. Our four year and two year placements listed on the HS Profile we sent out matched the report. However, in a local meeting, I heard counselors state that their HS Profiles showed 96% or so going to college, but about 70% actually graduating college based on the Clearinghouse report for their schools. It leads me to ask the following questions:
1) As school counselors, do we have a transition lesson for high school students in preparing for the academics, social/emotional and college/career readiness?
2) What support are provided to alumni who may want to return to their school counselor and ask about the college process all over again?
3) Are we providing the best program to support the right fit and having the honest discussions needed on admissions and financial aid?
My comments are not to insult anyone, but to support the work being done and enhance programs by asking questions that I would ask at my own placement. It is about the student and not the profile or reports! We look better to our stakeholders if we can show the data on the right fit! Data can also support the opportunities for the need to visit college campus and go on tours!
Another source of data that can assist is running the numbers of college reps coming to your school yearly. It is a habit of mine to do so. I look at how many reps have come to the school in a year and have compiled such numbers every year. I then look at where students are looking to apply to and if the rep has not come to visit the school, I reach out to them sending an open invitation. Connect, connect....even if they do not come by the year I reach out, I continue to invite them for the following year!
Now, let's focus on the studentL the Whole Child Approach. It is the Junior College meeting. I have one period to reach the student and parents, if in attendance, to be able to draw up a college list. The department has access to Naviance, College Board, ACT and other web based tools on an ongoing basis. This time, I do not use any of the above. It is an initial conversation focused on the following questions:
1) What are some of your hobbies or activities after school? Do you plan on continuing those after high school?
2) Are you comfortable raising your hand in a class of 200 students? What if you are being taught by a TA, would you ask a question?
3) Do you like to go to NYC? Or would you rather be in a more suburban area similar to the location of your high school? Why or why not?
4) What have been your favorite classes and your least favorite? What do you like about the classes you state are favorite?
5) Tell me about something you learned that you felt made an impact on you? Why?
Certainly among the questions, I ask about possible interest areas (not majors as it scares them), testing, teacher recommendations and the essay topics. I suggest summer connections to shadow someone they might know who are in the area, or just interview that person to get knowledge of their skills and activities. I stop after 40 minutes and give them homework: reach out to the teachers to ask for recommendations, begin completing the resume, and research the college lists they get from me. As they leave, I set up a follow up meeting to check on their progress, but given different caseload sizes, you may want to use email or journaling.
In addition to the above conversations, the timeline brochure is sent out for the Juniors through an email attachment in December. The following is the one sent to Seniors in the Fall to remind them where we left off and keep them engaged. Feel free to adapt to your school.
Am I an expert? Not really. The working environment is different for all. I am a dedicated school counselor! I just think of the Whole Child perspective and use resources to let the student own the process while I guide. There is enough chaos with all of the media discussions around the process, so why increase the tension with a robotic process? We use Career Cruising to have students in grades 9 and 10 enter their educational plans (they copy from transcripts) and search areas of interests. We use Naviance to do the resume and college process. Tools are resources for all of us to use in guiding students. Data shows the importance of spending more time with students to discuss their personalized learning plans and post-secondary plans. With the right discussions, the right research, students can find the right fit!
National Student Clearinghouse
MyRoad - MyPlan lesson from CollegeBoard